Archive:  Fire

Last Updated  31/10/17



NEW  State Level Changes To The Bushfire Management Overlay in State Amendment GC13

(31/10/17 - P)   Who's in, and who's out of the overlay is changed, and some new planning provisions are introduced

State amendment GC13 was introduced to all planning schemes in Victoria on 3 October 2017, and these changes affect Macedon Ranges Shire. 


Overall, there are winners and losers with these mapping boundary changes, but generally application of the Bushfire Management Overlay (boundaries) has been mainly increased with concurrent reduction of the overlay's application in some places.  It comes down to individual properties as to whether (a) you are affected by any change, and (b) a change brings you into, or takes you out of, the overlay.


Other changes are made to existing bushfire provisions, and new schedules to the BMO are introduced.  In Macedon Ranges, two new schedules come in for Macedon/Mount Macedon/Woodend, setting specific requirements for BAL-12.5, and for Macedon/Mount Macedon BAL-29 high risk areas.   You can check it out in detail by going to the approved amendment documentation at:


MRRA Says:


Haven't checked a lot of it but noticed this:

You might want to check your property and whether it is affected.  Click the following link to go to Amendment GC13, scroll down to Approved Documents, go to 'GC13 Amendment Maps M', go to 'Macedon Ranges'. 



Black Saturday:  Tribute & "Black Is All I See"


State Govt Introduces Sweeping Changes To Bushfire Planning Provisions In Amendment VC83

(24/12/11 - P)  New Bushfire Management Overlay [BMO] takes consideration of fire hazard further


In November the State government introduced new (and significantly changed) planning regulations in amendment VC83 relating to bushfire hazard, which resulted in changes to 17 planning scheme clauses. 


State policy at Clause 13 Environmental Risks is greatly changed, with a stronger emphasis on strategy, and a new focus on prioritizing protection of human life, refusing unsuitable development (in terms of existing or creating bushfire risk) and building community resilience. 


The new Bushfire Management Overlay (Clause 44.06) introduces an ability to add Schedules to the Overlay.  This means areas with different hazard and different requirements can be identified, instead of universal application of the same 'rules'. There are also changes to Environmental Significance, Vegetation Protection, Significant Landscape, Erosion Management and Salinity Management Overlays, with Schedules being introduced for the last two. 


Changes are made to several Particular Provisions at Clauses 52.16, 52.17, 52.32, 52.40, 52.43.  New Provisions for Bushfire Protection: Planning Requirements and Bushfire Protection: Exemptions are inserted as Clauses 52.47 and 52.48 respectively.  Clause 52.47 sets out new subdivision and development requirements in bushfire-prone areas, in a format which mirrors ResCode, and Clause 52.48 sets out where planning permit requirements may not apply for Accommodation proposals. 


To help explain these changes two new Advisory Notes are available (Advisory Note 33: Community fire refuge and private bushfire shelter exemptions, and Advisory Note 40: Bushfire planning provisions). 


There are also new Practice Notes 64 Local Planning for bushfire protection which identifies what's needed for planning applications, and Practice Note 65 which explains the Bushfire Management Overlay and bushfire protection planning requirements.


At this stage, the existing Wildfire Management Overlay [WMO], which identifies risk areas based upon narrow criteria, is retained but now the new VC83 planning provisions apply to it.  The new Bushfire Management Overlay will go further than the WMO.  The BMO is based on recently released Bushfire Hazard mapping, which identifies some 85% of Victoria as being at risk, so the BMO will be applied more extensively over larger areas than the existing WMO.  The WMO will be replaced in planning schemes over time with the Bushfire Management Overlays. 


An additional feature of the BMO is that it comes with schedules, which allow differences in risk level, requirements and actions to be taken to be differentiated and included on separate schedules within the BMO overlay itself.  The 'old' WMO has no schedules and so the same standards apply universally.  In addition, the new planning provisions (Clause 52.47) are reminiscent of ResCode with a fundamental difference - there are MANDATORY standards to be met for subdivision and development in bushfire prone areas.  The provisions also recognize development may not be possible in all situations.


These changes respond to the Bushfire Royal Commission recommendations, and affect most parts of the State.  


For more information on the new provisions, go to the Department of Planning and Community Development's website,


To access the new planning scheme provisions go to VC83: Approved Documentation at Amendments Online:;


Practice Note 65: Bushfire Management Overlay and bushfire protection planning requirements:


MRRA Says:


These are bold steps - and a new way of thinking - which radically change how the planning system addresses fire in Victoria.  They deliver new standards and better define risks, outcomes, roles, requirements and responsibilities. 


The changes are complex and comprehensive, and importantly come as a 'complete package' of integrated controls, all of which need to be read and used together.  They are also a substantial change from the controls introduced after the Black Saturday bushfires.


It will pay everyone to read and understand the changes and new provisions before venturing into either action or comment in response to them.  




New Regulations For Bushfire Prone Areas In Force From 8 September 2011

(23/9/11 - E)  Regulations and maps released by State government 

The State government has released maps of bushfire prone areas in Victoria.  Around 85% of the State is now classified as bushfire prone which, among other things, indicates a vulnerability to ember attack.  New requirements and standards are now in place, which will affect new building and development - and planning for it.  Click here to see more information and links from the Department of Planning and Community Development's website.


MRRA Says:


It's not quite a blanket coverage for Macedon Ranges Shire, but it's close.  Bushfire-prone coverage varies across the towns, with Kyneton looking the least bushfire-prone. Click here for the Macedon Ranges Shire map.  Tip:  Use zoom in View to get a closer look at specific areas. 


We zoomed in for Woodend to see how the Villawood land is affected, remembering that there aren't any Wildfire Management Overlays on the land.  The new bushfire-prone maps change that.  It's no longer the 'safe haven' some would have it, because the new mapping shows the entire property is now officially classified as bushfire-prone.  Hmmm... does that mean the whole proposal will have to be re-thought, along with the desirability of putting a second Braemar school in a bushfire-prone area? 



Community Workshops On Fire Readiness 

(7/10/11 - P)  Woodend (17/10), Riddell (22/10) and Macedon (24/10) 

A series of workshops (in Woodend, Riddell and Macedon) to help residents understand more about bushfire risk in their area is running this month.  The workshops are also looking for feedback on what might be done to make areas safer, and what else Council and local agencies can do to help prepare a fire plan.  Residents are asked to register by 14 October.  Click here for details of when and where.



Draft Loddon-Mallee Regional Strategic Fire Management Plan On Exhibition

(13/4/11- E)  Public can comment until 29 April


A draft Loddon-Mallee Regional Strategic Fire Management Plan has been placed on public exhibition, and comments from the public can be made until April 29.


Macedon Ranges is within the Loddon-Mallee Region, and this plan affects the Shire and its residents.


The A3 Summary of the plan says:


"In response to the challenges that have emerged in fire management over the last decade the Victorian Government established an Integrated Fire Management Planning (IFMP) Framework for Victoria. This framework provides structures, policies and procedures to help build on the existing spirit of cooperation and networks that exists in fire management. This strategic plan, as part of that framework, will shape the direction in fire management planning in the Loddon Mallee for the next 10 years.


The Loddon Mallee Regional Strategic Fire Management Planning Committee has worked collaboratively to prepare this Plan and now seeks the input of the broader community to improve it.


In the first instance the Plan addresses only the bushfire risk in the Loddon Mallee Region. As soon as is feasible it will expand its focus to cover structural fire and other risks for which the fire agencies have responsibility.


Development of Municipal Fire Management Plans, which coordinate the fire management activities in a local Government area over three years, will commence in the 10 Loddon Mallee Municipalities following the finalisation of this Regional Plan."


Go to to find out more about the draft plan.


Available documentation consists of:


Draft Loddon Mallee Regional Strategic Fire Management Plan A3 summary

Draft Loddon Mallee Regional Strategic Fire Management Plan

Draft Loddon Mallee Regional Strategic Fire Management Plan - Annex A, Environmental Scan

Draft Loddon Mallee Regional Strategic Fire Management Plan Annex B, Risk Framework

Draft Loddon Mallee Regional Strategic Fire Management Plan Annex C, Glossary


Find out more about Integrated Fire Management at 


You can inspect the proposal and plan at Council's Kyneton, Gisborne, Woodend and Romsey offices.  Questions can be directed to CFA Loddon Mallee Regional Office, Swan Hill on 5036 2800.


Comments can be made by 29 April in the following ways.

MRRA Says:


We've got an issue in principle with the Fire Management Plan.  It's based on the 'secret' Loddon Mallee Regional Strategic Plan, Southern Region, produced by Regional Development Victoria in 2010.  Prepared by the former Brumby government, this document - which names Gisborne, Woodend and Kyneton as the 'Calder Growth Corridor' - was never exhibited and had no public scrutiny or input before being adopted and implemented.


You might want to object to it being used as the basis for the Regional Strategic Fire Management Plan, for a start.


This same unseen Southern Loddon document underpins population growth in the draft Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy, hence substantial population increases pushed into Gisborne and Riddells Creek. 




Hasty Woodend Bushfire Meeting Runneth Over

(13/8/10 - P)  The local 'bush telegraph' gets numbers to the meeting 

At last Monday's hastily-organised meeting to consult local communities on the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommendations not (yet) supported by the State government, organisers were bowled over as people just kept coming in the door. 


More tables were quickly set up, more chairs found, and another room commandeered to fit 'em all in.  All up, there were just shy of 100 people.  At first it was proposed that people move from table to table - which all had different discussion topics assigned to them - but with so many people, it was wisely decided to just move the topics around, not the people.


No-one knows what the thoughts of the meeting were, because there was no feedback session at the end, but there was criticism of the very short notice.



Bushfire "Consultation" In Woodend Monday 9 August

(8/8/10 - E)  Rush job to "consult" - no time for local publicity about "community meeting" 

Following on from the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission releasing its Final Report into the Black Saturday fires, the Brumby government has hastily and with little notice initiated a rolling series of "community meetings". 


One of these community meetings will be 'facilitated' in Woodend next Monday 9 August.  It seems there wasn't enough time to advertise the meeting in local papers.  The State government is, apparently, asking for community feedback on some of the recommendations to which it hasn't given unqualified "support in principle".


Woodend Meeting Details:  6.30 pm to 8.30 pm, Woodend Community Centre, cnr Forest St and High St., Woodend.  The meeting is not just for Woodend residents, but residents in the district.


Click here to see the State government's response to all Royal Commission recommendations (final report), a link to the Premier's media release, and a link to the recommendations on the Royal Commission's website.


Click here to see the 14 recommendations not given unqualified "support in principle"


Go to to see the Opposition's position.


Click here to see a notice of the meeting in Woodend from James O'Brien. 


Mr. O'Brien, apparently a resident of Woodend (and formerly Kyneton) was criticized by Paul Austin of the Age in an article titled "Ex-Labor man gets bushfire job".  According to Mr. Austin, Mr. O'Brien was chief of staff to community services minister Sheryl Garbutt from 2002 to 2005. 


MRRA Says: 


What's the hurry?  We thought one of the fundamental principles of consulting is to let people know they can actually have a say.  That's not really happening here.


It is also disturbing that some of the perhaps most critical recommendations haven't been given the thumbs up by the State government.  A number of those seem to relate to restricting development and/or imposing higher standards. 


As a whole, the Royal Commission's recommendations would go a long way to improving how Victoria addresses bushfire and recognizing and better respecting the risks associated with it. 


In our view, it's time to stop thinking these risks can be 'managed', and to start looking at them as restrictions on what can be done, and what land can be developed, in bushfire prone areas.  There really is no such thing as risk management, just risk taking.  Black Saturday, and Ash Wednesday before it, showed what happens when too many risks are taken, too many standards are reduced, too little care is taken, and too many corners are cut.  Unless there is change, it will all happen again.


There are inherent conflicts in putting more people in the path of danger by allowing on-going development in high risk environments.  Those areas also usually have high environmental values, and we stand to lose not only people but those values if we continue to push square pegs into round holes.  All we end up with is more people at risk and a degraded and compromised environment.


It's also about time governments started thinking beyond the electoral cycle.  What wouldn't most people give for leadership with true vision and a true understanding of 'public interest', and the balls to put those before knee-jerk reactions to make politicians popular or push agendas. 


Ah, but it's a lesson that still has to be learnt, it seems, as the Brumby Government with support from the Opposition, pushed Amendment VC68 through parliament only two days before the Royal Commission handed down its final report. 


Amendment VC68 massively expands Melbourne's Urban Growth Boundary not only into metropolitan Green Wedge areas but also out into the rural shire of Mitchell - that is, into higher risk bushfire areas.  More of the same...  they may be 'nice' places to live, but they can kill as well.


We hope the Brumby government won't let it's 'anything, anywhere' development agenda, and plans to push people into Melbourne's high bushfire risk areas - and into Melbourne's 'hinterland' (including Macedon Ranges) - get in the way of genuinely improving safety for so many Victorians. 



Bushfire At-Risk Schools, Kindergarten and Child Care Facilities List

(19/11/09 - E)  These are the places that will close on Catastrophic fire danger days - and there are some surprises in Macedon Ranges. 

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has released a list of schools, kindergartens and child care facilities that it has determined are at high risk of fire danger.  They have been placed on the Bushfire At-Risk Register.  This action provides a trigger for the facilities on the list to be closed on Code Red or Catastrophic fire danger days.  You can access the full list by going to the department's website at


Macedon Ranges' residents can see the local facilities within and near the Shire that are on the list by clicking here.  Almost all are included but the surprise is that, while New Gisborne facilities are there, those in Gisborne are not, and nor are any in Lancefield (Monegeetta and Kyneton are also omitted). 


MRRA Says:

As Gisborne is only a couple of kilometres from the Wombat Forest, and Lancefield is a similar distance from the Cobaw State Forest, it seems odd that they wouldn't be seen as potentially dangerous on a Catastrophic day.



Black Saturday: Dept of Planning And Community Development Advises New Web Page For Bushfire Resource Info

(10/10/09 - SG)  Easier access 

DPCD advises that bushfire planning and building resource information can now be accessed from a new web page that consolidates the information on its site and links to related useful sites.



Black Saturday: State Government's Euphemistic "Interim Measures For Bushfire Protection" Rammed Into Planning Schemes

(17/9/09 - P)  This knee-jerk piece of political opportunism creates a dangerous future for rural Victorians 

On the 10th of September 2009, the Brumby government placed a new provision (Clause 52.43) in all rural planning schemes that provides for so-called 'bushfire protection'.  The provision is interim, and at this stage is due to expire on 31st August 2010.  Changes have also been made to the Schedule of Clause 53 - the State provision that recognises the Upper Yarra Valley and Dandenongs Regional Strategy Plan, where the strength of those controls are undermined by the inclusion of Clause 52.43 exemptions. 


And what do the new exemptions from needing a planning permit to clear vegetation allow?

See also MRRA's article on the new community group, Living With The Bush.


MRRA Says:


One way to guarantee bushfires all over is to give people carte blanche to burn roadsides.  There are hundreds of examples every year of land owners doing burns that get away.  This latest effort should confuse things nicely - what price people will think they can burn anytime?  Oh dear, another bummer idea.


And what better way to guarantee neighbour turns against neighbour than allowing one owner to remove vegetation on someone else's property?  The wording of the control is confusing as well - is that 4 metres both sides of the fence, or 2 metres either side?  Who knows!


Who is going to measure?  Can half a plant be cleared?


As for clearing all vegetation, well - there go our water catchments, and what protects exotic trees, including prized street trees?


All up, this move has the hallmarks of what is increasingly becoming typical of decisions this government is making - impetuous, currying  minority political favour, not thought through, heavily influenced by trying to gain short-term political brownie points, and with overtones of a complete mess just around the corner.  Is it just us or what?  Who in their right mind would say clear this much vegetation, and start fires as well!


Yep, we could say 'good one', but it's not, so we wouldn't mean it. 



Black Saturday: Can You Help With Roo Rugs And Other Accoutrements?

(12/3/09 - E)  Call to arms for wildlife bushfire victims

An article in yesterday's Age lists contact points for people who would like to help wildlife carers with items needed for wildlife affected by the bushfires.  You might want to check with our local carers first, because we understand some of the victims are being cared for locally.  Contact

Macedon Ranges Wildlife Network


0410 745 793

Wildlife Emergency: 1300 094 535

PO Box 816, Gisborne, 3437

Email:  from website



State Government Acts On Bushfire Recovery 

(9/3/09 - P)  New planning provisions for bushfire recovery now in planning schemes, and new building standards to be met  


A new planning provision addressing Bushfire Recovery has been introduced into planning schemes via Amendment VC 53 and came into effect on 23 February.  Clause 52.38 sets out interim exemptions to facilitate use and development directly related to bushfire recovery where permits are waived for some matters. Written authorisation  from Councils is still required under certain circumstances (although it is not explained exactly what that means), especially where specified overlays are applied.  These overlays relate to heritage, and to land management including floodprone and poorly drained areas, and erosion prone and contaminated areas.  There is a time limit on these provisions of 31 March 2010 for development and construction, and of 31 March 2011 for use of land.  Those who were affected by bushfire will want to examine these provisions because the whole picture only emerges from reading the detail.   Click here for Clause 52.38, or go to the DPCD website - Planning Schemes Online


New building standards for homes were announced on 6 March 2009, and all new homes in Victoria will now be assessed for Bushfire Attack Levels (BALs).  Higher standards of construction and materials will be required as risk increases.  The Premier's press release states "prolonged drought and climate change require action on building standards, particularly in bushfire-prone areas."   The government will also review native vegetation provisions.  Of the new building standards, Minister for Planning Justin Madden stated, "the assessment will take into account a range of factors, including the specific nature of the site such as its distance to vegetation, the types of surrounding vegetation and the slope of the land."


The new building standards will apply to new homes or outbuildings of any construction type such as brick veneer, mud brick and timber, rebuilding of homes or outbuildings, repairs to part of a building or outbuilding such as a garage, shed or fireplace, and additions to homes and outbuildings within six metres of a dwelling.


MRRA Says:


Clause 52.38:  At face value making it easier to rebuild seems a sensible and compassionate way to go.  We just hope 'easier' results in smoother, not sloppy, outcomes. 


While the interim provisions address and require more compliance where land is in various overlays, including Erosion Management Overlays, Environmental Significance Overlays [ESO] and Salinity Management Overlays [SMO] aren't mentioned.  ESOs are usually applied to drinking water catchments and areas of high environmental significance, and so special attention to impacts of development, works and vegetation removal is needed in these sensitive areas, and in SMOs to vegetation removal in recharge areas (such as hilltops) which can potentially trigger salinity in groundwater discharge 'downstream'.  It is not clear how these issues are being handled. 


New Residential Building Standards:  These would be welcome in any circumstances, but they are still a long way from the complete answer.  Nevertheless, well done to the State government for taking up this option quickly.  However, coupled with the facilitation of rebuilding provided by Clause 52.38, where planning permits may not be required to rebuild, one concern is that it isn't clear where critical issues relating to the siting and design (i.e. shape) of buildings will be dealt with.  These, as much as building materials, can have a strong influence over how vulnerable buildings are to wildfire, and are issues we think the government should ensure are addressed. 


Likewise of concern is an apparent intention to assess vulnerability to bushfire on a site by site basis, including how much vegetation exists at the time of assessment.  This is something which can easily change over time, and besides, Clause 52.38 provides for significant vegetation removal as part of bushfire recovery which may present sites as unvegetated at the time of assessment.


Our hope is that at long last an attempt will be made to take a long, hard and realistic look at fire risk on a broader scale and basis than is presently done, and not just on a lot by lot basis.  The recent fires didn't seem to discriminate between rural areas and towns, or bush blocks and pasture, or high risk and lower risk.  The current practice of identifying bushfire prone areas based primarily on vegetation produces 'fickle finger of fate' results, where parts of a lot or a town may be deemed 'fireprone' while the rest isn't.  The gun - and fire - doesn't shoot that straight. 


Grass burns, and it burns fast.  Recognise this, and that factors other than vegetation such as slope, access, aspect etc. etc. all contribute to fire risk.  It has long been recognized - and then forgotten - that people and forested environments can be a dangerous mix.  Recognise that there are areas where risk is too high, and restrict new development in these areas.  Think about buying some properties back.    Discourage the 'tree-change' pitch that real estate agents have promoted. This time... this time let's be damn sure we really learn the lessons these terrible fires have placed right under our noses.  We owe the next generation that much...


Standards are also needed for bunkers.  Disappointingly, there are those who are already trying to cash in by putting forward, well, water tanks and other existing objects, as bunkers.  It's not quite that easy - at least not if the objective is ensuring bunkers are safe havens, not death traps.  Yet some are already parting with their money, but what are they really buying?  Bunkers relate to life and death situations, so please, let's have some high standards and sensible regulations asap.


MRRA says to the government, review the native vegetation provisions by all means, but please keep in mind it wasn't just native vegetation that burnt.  Along with grass, pine plantations and exotic trees burnt too.  Please, remember the role of vegetation in holding soil together and keeping it on slopes, and how its removal can lead to landslip; that forests help produce rain and drinking water, and wildlife call them 'home'.  Remember too the role of vegetation in climate change - the fewer 'converters' of CO2 we have, the more CO2 there will be, the hotter it will get, and the less rain and the more bushfires we will have.


There has also been some hysteria around not enough burning of forests, that there should be more 'cool', 'slow' and 'controlled' burns.  Would that there were!  The problem is, around Macedon Ranges at least, there doesn't seem to be such a thing as 'cool', 'slow' or 'controlled'.  The Department of Sparks and Embers regularly lights fires that take off and threaten to burn chunks of the place down  e.g. the fire in the Cobaws, and one on the side of Mt. Macedon that saw Braemar evacuated.  Notice given of 'cool' burns in fact often creates panic in the community - just this January DSE gave notice it would burn the western face of Mt. Macedon on February 14th.  February 14th???  Now that's enough to make you catatonic!!!!  There just doesn't seem to be any common sense applied to conducting burns, or enough resources provided to allow sufficient personnel to conduct sufficiently small, manageable burns that can in fact be controlled and extinguished, and at the right time of year (and that's not high summer, boys!).   The operative words are indeed 'cool', 'slow' and 'controlled'.  Go there, DSE, and you might take more people with you.



Black Saturday: DPI Expands Its Stock Containment Grants For Fire-Affected Areas

(9/3/09 - E)  Funding and information now available for Port Phillip region

Click here for details and contact points



Black Saturday: Infoxchange: Technology Supporting Bushfire Relief

(21/2/09 - CC)  Computer and IT assistance is available 

Click here for more information



Black Saturday:  Important Information For People Affected By Bushfires

(21/2/09 - E)  How to get help, how to help 

Click here for details.



Black Saturday:  Can You Help?

(21/2/09 - E)  A Landcare proposal for a 'buddy system' to reach out to those in bushfire affected areas 

Click here for information.



Black Saturday:  "Funfield" Bushfire Appeal Day

(21/2/09 - E)  Sunday 21 February at Whittlesea 

Click here for details



Black Saturday:  Bushfire Preparedness Courses - FREE

(21/2/09 - E)  Woodend Neighbourhood House 

Click here for details and advice re change of dates



"Women And Children On Ash Wednesday" Forum:  Macedon, Sunday 18 February

(17/2/07 - E)  A contemplative look at the past, to benefit our future

This forum is about sharing.  Those who have lived through catastrophic bushfire have been asked to share their experiences with women presently raising children in our high fire risk environment.  Click here for details.